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play hard

2005-08-08 by

Businesses might solicit a new employee who "works hard." Doubtless, he also has good communication skills. Whatever that means.

So, why is it that when we go to a job, we "work" hard. Propriety would dictate that playing at work is sin. But hard work is enviable. Then again, when it comes to the competitive world of ... competition, say sports, then we're back to playing hard. Athletes "train" hard, or even "work" hard so that they can go out and play hard. But in the end, it's all so that they can play. Thus, "Coach, I just wanna work," doesn't slip off the tongue.

No one goes to work to play. They go to work so they can go home and play. What it boils down to is work is something we would otherwise avoid, and play is something we seek for. While the terms aren't completely exclusive (a great play in sports vs. a great work of art), the core meaning is there. And thus, what we've said in essence is this: what we work at isn't what we're all about.

The Cluetrain Manifesto points out that the current mindset is that "workers are lazy, unwilling, even stupid." But this mentality is built in to the same notion that work isn't play. If work isn't play, then it is drudgery. And each person has a limited threshold for that. People aren't lazy, they are BORED. They want to contribute, to challenge. But in the current situation, independent thinking is shunned and feared. Why? Simply put, it doesn't serve the machine, it serves the master. And, in theory, if there aren't enough cogs, there can't be any masters. No playing on "company" time--it doesn't belong to you.

Cogs work, masters play.

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

"Would God that all the LORD’s people were prophets," bemoaned Moses (Num. 11: 29). Why can't everyone just think for themselves? More than anything, is it our desire to hand over freedom of thought for security of paycheck. Yes-men all! Simply put, work oppresses and play liberates. No one complains, "I gotta play."

All play, no work? Not even a possibility. Motion denied.

Then again, don't we feel we're cheating ourselves out of valuable work time when we play. Playing is for kids. And athletes. Play is for something that doesn't matter. Work is for something greater. But isn't that backwards. Shouldn't we play for what we really want, since work is what we don't want? Well, it's a mixup. We believe the machine when it tells us that work is good and then tells us what work is (ie, what it wants). What we want is labeled "play" and seen as a distant second to the all-important work. It's simple rebranding.

'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone,' it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less.'

'The question is,' said Alice, 'whether you can make words mean so many different things.'

'The question is,' said Humpty Dumpty, 'which is to be master - that's all.'

-Lewis Carroll Through the Looking-Glass.

Those who love their jobs most often describe their work as play. Others may delude themselves likewise into thinking that drudgery is happiness. Don't forget our slogan:




(George Orwell, 1984).

God's "work" was creation (Gen. 2: 2). It is the human drama that he envisioned and created. And we are all actors in that play.

So we might as well play hard.